Saturday, January 24, 2009

Vankayi Munkayi Talimpu/ Fried Drumsticks & Eggplant.

For those of you who've never heard of drumsticks here's a picture of the vegetable (which are actually the fruit pods of the tree).

The botanical name is Moringa Oleifera (Tamil:Murengakai, Kannada: Noogekai, Marathi: Moongi shenga, Telugu: Munkayi).
The green pods are the ones used in this recipe. The leaves considered highly nutritious and flowers are also cooked, the former usually with lentils in Tamil homes.
There are various medicinal values attributed to the drumstick plant with a lot of information available on Wikipedia.

The pods grow on trees and when harvested at the right time and cooked well, provide a succulent interior with a unique flavor. The outside is ridged and slightly hard. If you're buying drumstick for the first time, make sure the seeds are not bulging out...this denotes an old pod. The pods shouldn't be too thin either as you won't be able to enjoy the fleshy interior.

PREP: Cut half inch tips of drumsticks, leaving one end attached and pull down like stringing beans. Do this with both ends. Next cut pod into two to three inch slices...continue stringing but leave outer shell intact.
I usually soak the fresh pods in water for 5 minutes before cooking.
I have sen drumstick trees in Hawaii and Florida, but in places where fresh drumstick is not available, packets of frozen drumsticks can be used with the same results.

Growing up in India, we had a drumstick tree. It was a Mysore drumstick tree that produces even longer, better quality drumsticks than the norm.
Put this together with a cook who loved making this dish and would have liked to make it every day when drumsticks were in season and you will be correct in guessing we ate this dish often. He made it so well, even my mother acknowledged he had the best way with this dish.

On a recent visit to India, I made this dish often, as it is one of my husband's favorites and we were lucky enough to find a few drumsticks in December. The name of the dish is in Telugu, one of the main languages of Southern India.
Here in the States I use the frozen packet of drumsticks available in the Indian grocery stores.


2 Tbsps oil
1 tsp mustard seed/rai.
3 red chillies
3 drumsticks
2 brinjals/eggplant (Japanese/Chinese/ 1/2 large American or the thin green Indian kind).
1 onion, chopped.
8-10 cloves garlic, peeled.
Salt and chilli powder to taste.

Heat oil, put in mustard seeds, cover pan.
When mustard seeds splutter, add red chillies and after half a minute add garlic cloves. When garlic cloves turn translucent add onion.
Fry till onions are brown then add drained drumstick, chopped eggplant and chilli powder and keep frying till done on medium heat.
Cover pan and stir occasionally.
Halfway through, add salt and mix well.
Eggplants will look soft and mushy when done and for those who want to be sure drumsticks are ready poke one with a sharp knife. If it goes in easily, drumsticks are done.
Drumstick and eggplant is a happy marriage as each complements the other superbly.

TO EAT DRUMSTICKS: Open pieces with fork and knife or by inserting a finger into one side while holding the other end with your thumb.
It usually breaks open into two to three pieces...pick each one up and drag against teeth to get the pulp out (like artichokes), or use edge of fork or tips of fingers to scrape the pulp off.

Drumsticks are also wonderful in sambar (a curry made with lentils).

TIP: Easiest way to peel garlic cloves is to microwave cloves for 10 seconds. The inner pod slips out easily.

This vegetable tastes best when eaten with hot chappattis/tortillas or rice and sambar or rasam.


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